Thu, 27 Apr 2000

China banks on Xia, Ji in Thomas Cup c'ship

JAKARTA (Agencies): China is putting its hopes on young shuttlers Xia Xuanze and Ji Xinpeng in the Thomas Cup in Kuala Lumpur next month while experienced women players will be recruited for the Uber Cup team.

Xia, the All England champion, and Ji, the Japan Open winner, will join elder players Sun Jun, Chen Hong and Luo Yigang in the singles. In the doubles, China is counting on Chen Qiqiu, Yu Jinhao, Zhang Jun, Zhang Wei and mixed doubles specialist Liu Yong.

For the Uber Cup, world number one Gong Zhichao will team up with the 1999 World Championships runner-up Dai Yun, former world number one Ye Zhaoying and Gong Ruina.

The world's best women's doubles pairing, Ge Fei/Gu Jun, will be the backbone along with Yang Wei, Huang Nanyan, Qin Yiyuan and Gao Ling.

China's head coach Li Yongbo was quoted as saying by Xinhua on Wednesday: "Our target is to defend the Uber Cup by our solid women's players and try to make it a golden double with the Thomas Cup through new talent."

The Chinese shuttlers trained in Guangzhou for a month before flying to Kuala Lumpur on May 7.

China is in the yellow group with defending champion Indonesia, Sweden and England. Runner-up Denmark is in the blue group with host Malaysia, South Korea and India.

Meanwhile, Bernama reported that the 1996 Olympic doubles silver medalist Yap Kim Hock insisted on Tuesday in joining the Malaysian Thomas Cup team despite a prolonged left calf injury.

"I believe I will be fit for the competition next month. I also have stepped up my training and I feel much better. I am still doing light training. Today, I spar with Rosman (Razak) and Hung (Choon Hun)."

Meanwhile, Chan Choong Ming, who will partner Cheah Soon Kit if Yap does not recover in time for the finals, said he was ready to play if given the chance.

Malaysia has launched a two million ringgit (US$526,316) patriotism campaign to boost the spirits of its shuttlers bidding to regain the Thomas Cup next month.

The campaign focuses on a theme song titled Julangkanlah (Lift It Up), that will be featured in a three-minute music video in English and Malay, The Star newspaper said.

The video, featuring the country's singles and doubles players, will be broadcast by private television station NTV7 from Wednesday until the end of the May 11 to May 21 tournament, it said.

The project is jointly undertaken by the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM), Kentucky Fried Chicken Holdings and NTV7.

Wide interest

BAM president Abdullah Fadzill Che Wan was quoted as saying the song would generate wide interest among Malaysians to come out and give moral support to the national shuttlers.

"As the hosts, this is the best chance for the team to wrest back the trophy," he said. "We are the underdogs while the favorites are Indonesia, China and Denmark. We need the fans to come out in full force and support the team."

Separately, the Badminton Association of Indonesia (PBSI) is staging a simulation match on Thursday at Padjadjaran Stadium, Bogor.

World number two Hendrawan is scheduled to meet Ronny Agustinus, Taufik Hidayat is to take on Hariyanto Arbi and Marlev Mainaky will face Johan Hadikusuma in the men's singles matches.

World number one pair of Candra Wijaya and Tony Gunawan will face Antonius Budi Irianto and Sigit Budiarto, while Ricky Subagja and Rexy Mainaky will challenge Flandy Limpele and Halim Heryanto.

In the women's singles, Lidya Djaelawidjaja will challenge Niniek Masrikah, Ellen meets Mona Santoso, Yuli Marfuah faces Atu Rosalina.

Elysa Nathanael and Elysa Lomban will meet Indarti Issoliana and Carmelita while Etty Tantri and Cynthia Tuwankotta will challenge Minarti Timur and Zelin Resiana. (yan)